For some years I knew of the work of the Rockford Institute. I also knew of some of the trials that impacted that work in the early 1980s. Yesterday I visited the Howard Center in Rockford, Illinois, which sits next door to the Rockford Institute. The Rockford Institute publishes the often eccentric magazine Chronicles, which I read each month with very mixed response because of the often odd direction of contrarian editor Thomas Fleming.

I write about this about Rockford Institute because the Howard Center is not to be confused with the Rockford Institute. The short story is that the Rockford Institute was begun by Dr. John Howard, who was then president of Rockford College (1960 until 1977). Dr. Howard originally began the work of the institute as the Rockford College Institute. Soon after stepping down as president the college wanted no part of his courageous and conservative pro-family agenda. Dr. John Howard later invited Dr. Richard John Neuhaus, then a Lutheran minister in New York City, to edit The Religion and Society Report, the wonderful periodical of the Rockford Institute in those days. I read that publication during the Neuhaus years before he founded the internationally well-known First Things magazine, which I still read. After Neuhaus left Rockford Institute my friend Harold O. J. Brown, who then taught theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), became editor of The Religion and Society Report, which he still edits todaay. The Religion and Society Report is well worth the subcription price of $24.00 and appears eight times a year.

In the late 1980s the Rockford Institute went in a different direction and thus The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society was formed to promote the vision and values of the original Rockford Institute. The Howard Center is a non-profit organization led by president Allan C. Carlson and vice-president Lawrence D. Jacobs. You can check out the valuable work of the Howard Center at I urge you to consider becoming an Associate Member for $25 annually. I joined as a Full Member for $70 and read the material with keen interest and now can give my full personal support. The mission and vision of the Howard Center is clearly stated at the Web site so check it out youself.

I visited the Howard Center yesterday because in the kind providence of God I met Dr. John Howard in September. I was a guest speaker at Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Rockford and where met Dr. Howard on a Saturday morning. Dr. Howard publicly asked me a very good, but not so easy to answer, question related to Christian mission (my topic) and its relationship to family and cultural change. I was intrigued by such a distinguished Christain gentleman and by his vast well of wisdom. We later talked that morning and then agreed to meet later this year for lunch, which happened yesterday.

Dr. Howard was, and remains to this day, an educator and cultural critic. He served in the Eisenhower administration as a young man and also knew the late President Richard Nixon very well. His friends include a list of cultural and political leaders a mile long. Listening to him, and getting to know something of his long and fruitful life, was well worth the trip to Rockford. More importantly, we related well to one another as friends do while we also talked about church and culture at this crucial moment in America’s history. I like the vision and heart I see in John Howard very much and thus I strongly encourage you to support this work with me. This is the kind of cultural input thoughtful Christians desperately need now. It is not the shrill rant of the Christian Right but rather the thoughtful and measured response of a very balanced conservativsm.

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  1. David Bahnsen November 29, 2005 at 11:19 am

    John –
    I didn’t have the time to look at the Howard Center site in any depth, but I did get a rough impression for my quick glance-over that this outfit may be one of those real militant anti-birth control deals … Is my perception accurate?

  2. John H. Armstrong November 29, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    My impression is still forming on some matters related to the Center but I did not detect a radical “anti-birth control” agenda from what I have read or learned. If someone points this out to me I would be grateful but, given who is involved and what they are doing, I would be surprised since the board of The Howard Center is made up of Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Their agenda is broader from my perspective.

  3. Will Garrity March 6, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Hounshell links Muslim takeover with the Howard Center’s “Natural Family.”
    In a recent newspaper advertisement, Doug Hounshell, a Baptist pastor in Kanab, Utah, stated that whereas “Only Muslims have high birth rates,” they will one day inherit the Earth due to Western society’s “sins of homosexuality and abortion.”
    Hounshell made the remark in support of the Kanab City council’s 2006 adoption of a “Natural Family” resolution, the contents of which originated at the Howard Center of Rockford, Illinois.
    Reverend Hounshell further stated that the Muslim world in many ways is “headed backwards into its barbaric phase… So ladies, if you think the Natural Family Resolution was bad for you, just wait till you all are wearing hijabs.”
    Hounshell’s concluding paragraph stated “if you don’t want the world to turn into Saudi Arabia, then it might be wise to dust off your copy of the Natural Family and heed its vision.”
    To view Pastor Hounshell’s advertisement in its entirety, visit:
    click on the “Read Bible Answers Column” box.
    click on “view PAST columns”
    click on “Why The Natural Family’s Full Quiver Is Good?” ( Wednesday, February 14, 2007 )

  4. John H. Armstrong March 6, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    I would suggest you ask the Howard Center what its position is on this question. I do not know and I am not defending “Natural Family Planning” in the manner you refer to in any sense at all. I have no idea what the Howard Center believes officially about this question of family planning but they are not teaching Catholic doctrine as such.
    Natural Family Planning is, however, taught quite reasonably well by many traditional and faithful Catholics. It seems to me that most Protestants have never bothered to hear a reasonable defense of their view at all.
    I am not prepared to say that abortion and family planning are of one piece but I am prepared to say that when Protestants gave in on the one it made it much easier to give in on the other a few decades later. Having said this I would leave to conscience this matter but our Catholic friends believe their conscience is bound by the church’s doctrine. In this we differ but we can learn a lot from lisening to their arguments much better. I know I have myself.

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